Men as Allies: International Women’s Day 2019
For years now, we’ve known that diverse teams produce better results. So this year for International Women’s Day, the WISE Young Professionals Board are diversifying, by asking our male colleagues, partners, mentors and family to show their support for women in STEM.
“Let’s all create the right conditions for more women to participate in science and engineering, not just on International Women’s Day but every day. The more diverse and inclusive science and engineering becomes, the better equipped we will be to tackle the big scientific challenges that matter to society.”
Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser
“Diversity gives us the different viewpoints that effective engineering solutions need”
Jake Rigby, Research and Development Lead, BMT
By virtue of the gender imbalance in my industry, the majority of those who have mentored me offered much-needed advice and generally been pillars of support in my career, have been male colleagues. And there have been lots of them, all equally supportive in my quests to be a great engineer and to foster a STEM world where gender isn’t a consideration. Today we’re celebrating our male allies and hoping to encourage more conversation to jointly campaign for gender parity in STEM.
‘It’s brilliant to recognise women on International Women’s Day…however we should be doing it everyday”
Simon Forsyth, Site Quality Director, GSK
It’s easy to view the gender parity movement as a ‘women’s issue’, a campaign led by women, for women. But the reality is that it’s so much more. Gender parity will benefit everyone, and we need all voices from all genders and backgrounds to join the discussion.
Women make up 22% of the STEM workforce – so what can we do to engage the other 78% and what can men do to contribute?
I often find my male colleagues reluctant to go to ‘Women in X’ events or indeed, even events with gender-neutral topics, which happen to be organised by a ‘Women in X’ group. It’s understandable; events are often billed as ‘open to everyone’ but perhaps not obviously and I can imagine gender-specific topics and advertising is rather off-putting. We’ve unlocked the door, but we need to be holding it open and asking people to come in. We need to be specifically saying ‘male colleagues, please come along too, we need your help’.
So, to female colleagues, next time there’s an event you’re going to – try and extend a personal invite to a male ally. And to male colleagues, try not to see these events as ‘for women’ but for everyone. By opening the conversation, challenges will become clearer, understanding will be built and we’ll come up with better solutions. We’d love to see the results, so if you do this please snap a photo and send us a quick summary either by email or twitter.
Equally, I find it difficult to motivate colleagues to get involved with outreach. I’m a huge advocate of outreach and I spend a fair amount of time in schools, at code clubs or running STEM activities, and an equal amount of time trying to convince my colleagues to do the same. Often I get responses like ‘I can’t encourage girls to do STEM, I’m not female!’.
While I do agree that girls need to see women like them in STEM roles, I absolutely think men have a huge part to play in this area. Girls and boys alike need to see a range of people in all sorts of STEM careers, only then will it be clear to them that STEM is for everyone. Engaging with young people and inspiring them to consider STEM can only be a positive thing and I don’t believe the emphasis needs to be on gender to make an impact. So I’d encourage everyone to support a STEM outreach activity this year, or if you’re already doing so – convince a colleague to tag along!
“Men have done enough talking. It’s time for us to stop, given women the floor, and listen”
Tim Sadler, CEO, Tessian
I hope that by being more obviously open about the conversation around women in STEM and inviting everyone, regardless of gender, to join the discussion – we’ll be able to be united in our movement towards gender parity in STEM.
To see more messages of support and encouragement from our male allies, follow us on Twitter @WISE_YPB where we’ll be tweeting messages throughout the day.